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'Tweaking' teachers' contract leads to a deadlock
Two weeks ago, the teachers union seemed happy with the offer. Then haggling started.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 29, 2007
BROOKSVILLE -- Hopes are dimming for a quick agreement on salary increases for Hernando County teachers.
On Wednesday, negotiators for the district and teachers union found themselves deadlocked on the question of which side gets to divvy up funds earmarked for salaries, and how to budget for new hires.
Two weeks ago, agreement had seemed close. Negotiators with the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association union said they were generally pleased with a $75.6-million School Board offer that would have raised salaries by 5.5 percent, plus the full 1 percent cost of a health insurance increase.
All that was needed, they said, was some final tweaking on how that money was distributed.
But this week, district negotiators said the union's tweaking would cost nearly $1-million more than the School Board had offered, pushing the average salary increase to 7.1 percent, or 8.1 percent with the health insurance increase.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander dropped by in person to say that wouldn't fly with the board.
"I'm saying you're not going to get that money," Alexander said, referring to the board's offer as a "pretty darn good contract."
District officials said the union's proposal wasn't devoting enough money for the salaries of teachers in their first years. With most counties paying more to attract teachers, they said, that's a concern.
Under both proposals, a beginning teacher would earn a base salary of $33,750.
But union officials said the district's salary schedule offered a paltry 0.9 percent increase to teachers at the top of the salary schedule.
"People at the top would go ballistic," said lead negotiator Steve Stora, saying he wouldn't like to put such figures up for union ratification.
He said the district was basing its salary schedule on the number of teachers it projected in April, rather than on the actual salaries of teachers this fall. That might leave the union with less than the promised $75.6-million, he said.
Using such a projection could leave some funds unspent, going to the district's reserve fund instead of teacher salaries, union officials said.
"It doesn't go to teachers, and at the end of the year, it gets swept into the general fund," added Whit Campbell, a teacher at Springstead High. "You're talking about rainy days, and we're living in a typhoon."
Officials said the union's proposal would be presented to the School Board next week during a closed session.